We had a chance to sit a few minutes with Tony at this years’ Players Championship. The conversation revealed a great deal of the inner man that is rarely seen by the public, evidenced by his excellent play week in and week out on the PGA Tour and the high level of respect afforded him by his fellow members. ed.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9, 2022 . As a professional, the pathway to the PGA Tour is not as cut-and-dried as many would think. The common perception of a PGA Tour professional’s entry is the culmination of a stellar amateur career, including pre-high school, high school, and college competition. Many top professionals did indeed follow that route to the “big stage.” Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Justin Leonard, Jon Rohm, and more than I care to name here, but you get the drift. However, some have risen to the highest ranks by virtue of a more circuitous route, particularly the players of color who’ve achieved player status on the PGA Tour. Lee Trevino, Lee Elder, Chuck Thorpe, Charlie Sifford, Calvin Peete, Roberto De Vicenzo, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Homero Blancas, Robert Gamez, Thongchai Jaidee, Vijay Singh, and many others from around the U.S. and the globe who gained entry to the PGA Tour on talent and determination alone. Tony Finau is a study of self-motivation, desire, and finding the will to achieve a life-long dream of playing at the highest level of professional golf.
Finau was the older of two boys raised by his parents until his mom’s passing at an early age. Finau is of Tongan and Samoan descent, the first person of such ancestry to play on the PGA Tour.
When asked what he imagined himself doing after becoming an adult, “: I always wanted to be a golfer. My younger brother, who was better, took up the game at five. He and my dad would play, and I would be a tag-along. My dad was the only coach I ever had.” Finau said that he and his brother would play with their dad but that he was relatively disinterested in the game until he was seven or eight years old. Finau said that playing golf was all that he wanted to do after reaching that age. His dad was a multi-sports (basketball, baseball, soccer, golf) participant and enthusiast. Finau said his family could not financially afford professional coaching, so his dad assumed the job for his two boys. Finau said his brother won several tournaments for kids age ten and under. Said Finau, “My dad is my hero.”
Although Finau had college scholarships to play basketball,
After turning pro at age 17, Finau had a successful career playing the PGA Tour Canada and in
In March 2016, Finau won his maiden title on the PGA Tour at the Puerto Rico Open. He won in a sudden-death playoff over Steve Marino with a birdie on the third extra hole. Earlier, he had missed a putt for the victory outright on the 72nd green. The result moved Finau into the top 25 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Finau qualified for the first three majors in 2018, including his first Masters’ appearance, by making it to the Tour Championship in 2017. He finished in a tie for 10th place at the 2018 Masters. In June 2018, Finau finished in 5th place at the U.S. Open.
Finau finished the 2018 season ranked sixth in the season-long FedEx Cup. He earned over $5,600,000 in the 2017–18 season with 11 top-10 finishes. His best finishes in the season were second at the Safeway Open and The Northern Trust. He also finished T2 at the Genesis Open.
In September 2018, U.S. team captain Jim Furyk named Finau as a captain’s pick for the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National outside of Paris, France.
In April 2019, Finau was in the final group of the Masters Tournament with Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods, who went on to win his 15th major championship. Finau ended the tournament tied for 5th.
In December 2019, Finau played on the U.S. team at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. The U.S. team won 16–14. Finau went 0–1–3 and halved his Sunday singles match against Hideki Matsuyama.
In February 2020, Finau forced a playoff against Webb Simpson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, ultimately finishing in sole possession of second place.
In early 2021, Finau had a stretch of five weeks where he finished in the top 4 in all four tournaments he entered. He finished fourth at The American Express, tied second at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied second at the Saudi International on the European Tour, and lost in a playoff to Max Homa at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Finau won the 2021 Northern Trust, beating Cameron Smith in a playoff.
In September 2021, Finau played on the U.S. team in the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. The U.S. team won 19–9 and Finau went 1–2–0.
MGM: What drives you to compete at the highest level; where does he find the inner strength and motivation?
“I’ve always been a self-motivated individual. I rely on my faith in Jesus Christ and past challenges to help me achieve future goals. (That is to say); in going through disappointments and letdowns, I would remember how it felt going through those times.” “When I’m on the course, I rely on past challenges to keep me centered and focused on the task at hand.”
MGM: You mentioned your faith. Are you Mormon?
Finau: “Yes, I am. We were born and raised in the Mormon Church, and my family is very devout.”
MGM: When asked about alcohol use and tobacco and other notable seemingly restrictions of the church. ,
Finau: I neither drink nor smoke but do not shun the practice in others. Said Finau, “I don’t consider it (not drinking/smoking) a restriction. I consider it the freedom to live a better life. Finau said that his faith believes that avoiding these practices is not designed to restrict a person from a better life but instead gives a person freedom from a more hazardous life.
MGM: Were you ever a missionary?
Finau: “Missionary work is a choice that men and women (of the Mormon faith) make when they are quite young, as it requires several years commitment out of one’s life. I could not devote that time and effort at 18-22 years of age. “Finau said he considers golf his “mission.” “I very much enjoy the game, play it, and have a passion for it.”
MGM: What are your goals?
Finau: To reach and help as many young people as possible in the Salt Lake City area, empowering them to become all they can dream of being. I’m not unrealistic about my chances of winning a bunch of majors, but I plan to win, and I play to win.
Finau started the Tony Finau Foundation, an organization that empowers youth and their families in the local Salt Lake City, Utah community. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Alayna Finau, have five children.